Cormac McCarthy (born Charles Joseph McCarthy Jr.; July 20, 1933 – June 13, 2023) was an American author.
Though he began his career in the 1960s, it was the publication of his novel All the Pretty Horses in 1992 that brought him widespread recognition, earning him two of the most prestigious US literary awards, the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award.
Interest in McCarthy skyrocketed with The Coen Brothers' Academy Award-winning film adaptation of his novel No Country for Old Men and the subsequent film adaptation of his Pulitzer Prize-winning The Road.
His reputation as one of the finest American writers was further cemented with the placing of his novel Blood Meridian behind Don DeLillo's Underworld and Toni Morrison's Beloved in a New York Times poll of the Greatest American novels of the last 25 years.
A reclusive author, McCarthy surprised everybody when he agreed to give his first-ever television interview after Oprah Winfrey selected The Road for her famous Book Club.
While McCarthy wrote books in genres such as historical fiction, Southern Gothic, crime, and post-apocalyptic Science Fiction, most of his works are, at heart, Westerns. His novels are infamous for their extreme content and use of Gorn. Murder, defilement, and wanton slaughter are par for the course in his works, so be warned if you choose to read them. That being said, they also tend to be strongly written and deeply affecting. Common themes include existentialism, the importance of decency, the brutal reality of human nature, and the potential for evil that lurks within us all.
His books are also notable for their stylistic idiosyncrasies. McCarthy refuses to use quotation marks or exclamation marks, uses commas relatively sparingly, and is fond of using extremely long run-on sentences when describing scenes. He often combines these traits for horrific effects, such as describing scenes of barbarity in long, breathless paragraphs that communicate what's going on with feverish intensity.
Works by McCarthy with their own pages include:
- The Orchard Keeper (1965)
- Outer Dark (1968)
- Child of God (1973)
- Suttree (1979)
- Blood Meridian (1985)
- The Border Trilogy (1992-1998):
- No Country for Old Men (2005)
- The Road (2006)
- The Passenger (2022)
- Stella Maris (2022)
Other works by McCarthy contain examples of:
- The Anti-Nihilist: What "carrying the fire" means. It's for this reason that McCarthy's work is often taught in conjunction with courses on Nietzsche (and to a lesser extent Kierkegaard).
- Arc Words:
- The Border Trilogy (which comprises All the Pretty Horses, The Crossing, and Cities of the Plain) is a staggering 1040 pages long.
- The Passenger (which comprises The Passenger and Stella Maris) is more modest at 608 pages.
- Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter: In The Crossing, a priest tells the story of a heretic who lost his entire family and demanded that if God exists, that he reveal himself by killing him on the spot or showing him some sign of his existence. The heretic sat for days in the same spot under a tower, asking for God to cause the tower to fall and kill him.
- Wanton Cruelty to the Common Comma: McCarthy has a number of stylistic idiosyncrasies, but his most pronounced is his continual refusal to use quotation marks, as well as an aversion to apostrophes when using contractions. Another quirk of his is that in many, if not all, of his books, there is not a single exclamation mark. At all. In an interview, he stated it's just because he doesn't want to clutter up the page.